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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

President Clinton Returns to White House Briefing Room; Elizabeth Smart Breaks Silence; Preaching Hate at Funerals

Aired December 10, 2010 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And thanks for watching, everyone.

Elizabeth Edwards will be laid to rest tomorrow. Tonight: the man who plans to preach his hate outside her funeral. He and his church routinely protest the funerals of service members. The Supreme Court is weighing in if what he does is protected by the Constitution.

Tonight, you're going to meet some of the people in North Carolina who are rallying tomorrow to show support for the Edwards family and meet the hate this group spouts with love.

Also tonight: the remarkable moment today when the president and former president walked into the White House Briefing Room to sell the president's tax deal. What happened next, no one could have predicted. President Obama walked out and left Bill Clinton holding fort from the podium. Was that a smart move from a confident Obama or a sign of just how much trouble he's in?

And later: Elizabeth Smart breaking her silence, talking about justice and moving forward moments after a guilty verdict was read in the trial against her kidnapper and rapist. Tonight, you are going to hear from Elizabeth. And we talk to Ed Smart about the verdict and what his daughter and the family plan to do now -- "Crime & Punishment" tonight.

We begin, as always, "Keeping Them Honest." Tonight: the church that preaches hate, plain and simple, hate in public places, hate in moments of great pain and great loss. We're talking about the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas.

I'm sure you have heard of them. It's a tiny congregation, a family-run operation whose members aren't content to spew their hate in the confines of their church. No, the man who runs the Westboro Baptist Church loves publicity, and he's made a name for himself by picketing funerals of fallen troops.

Their tortured logic is that America's war dead are somehow God's punishment for the country tolerating gays and lesbians. Their actions and whether or not it should be protected by the First Amendment is now being decided by the Supreme Court.

We talk about it tonight, however, because, tomorrow, the group will protest outside the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards in Raleigh, North Carolina. Now, in a moment, you're going to hear from some good people who are planning to drown out this group's hate with love. We have always avoided even mentioning this church on this program because we haven't, frankly, wanted to give them any publicity.

But because the Supreme Court is now considering the issues this church raises, we thought it worthwhile just to look at what they do, and, more importantly, what a lot of other Americans do to stand up to their bullying.

This is how far the church describes what they plan to do at Elizabeth Edwards' funeral tomorrow. And I want to warn you, the language they use is ugly.

"WBC," they write, "will picket a respectful distance from the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards, who split hell wide open on December 7, 2010."

They talk about a respectful distance. Their words are anything but respectful.

"This witch," they go on to say -- and I want to emphasize these are their words from their Web site -- "spent her life in defiance and disobedience to God and blasphemed him with her dying breath."

Now, I'm not going to read you any more of what they say on their Web site. The statement on -- on their Web site frankly just rambles on and on like this, talking about cancer is God's punishment, et cetera.

I'm not going to turn this into a Sunday school class. I'm not going to presume to tell you what the Bible says. But to use Elizabeth Edwards' funeral, to use the funeral of a service member, anybody's funeral, to promote yourself, to hurt others, as this church routinely does, look, it may be constitutional, and the Supreme Court is going to decide that, but it is certainly unconscionable.

A few weeks back, after reporting on a story about an Arkansas school board member who posted a rant on Facebook saying he liked to see gay people die, I suddenly found myself the target of this sorry little group.

The head of the church, a guy named Fred Phelps, posted this video online addressed to me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRED PHELPS, WESTBORO BAPTIST CHURCH: Who do you think you are, a muckraking little news prostitute, to be passing out spiritual advice on matters such as sin and righteousness and judgment to come?

You are in the bailiwick of Westboro Baptist Church now, you anti-Christ smart aleck.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Now, I really don't mean to be smart-aleck here, but I did have to look up what bailiwick meant. And it basically means I'm on their radar.

As for "muckraking little prostitute -- news prostitute," I didn't have to look that one up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHELPS: We at Westboro Baptist Church are offering up special prayers for you. They're called imprecatory prayers. Psalm 109 is an example of imprecatory prayers.

They are prayers for God's curses to be poured out upon a class of very grievous sinners, even in certain cases, that God will kill them and remove such evil people from the Earth. We are praying this kind of imprecatory prayers for Anderson Cooper.

Amen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Now, to be honest, having this man praying for my death is kind of a badge of honor. And, personally, I'm not too worried, because I don't think God listens to this man.

I actually hope he spends a lot of time praying for my demise, because maybe, just maybe, that means he will spend a little less time getting in his beat-up old van, driving to the funeral of a soldier or Marine and bringing even more pain to a grieving family.

I'm joined now by two people who never knew Elizabeth Edwards in life, but plan to be there tomorrow outside her funeral facing the Westboro protesters, facing them not with hate, but with hearts full of love.

Susan Burcham and Ben Requena join me now.

Susan, why did you feel the need to -- to be there tomorrow, to come out and -- and basically try to sort of silence Fred Phelps and those others?

SUSAN BURCHAM, ORGANIZING WESTBORO COUNTERPROTEST: We live in a town that respects funerals.

We -- we pull to the side of the road when the funeral car comes by. And when I heard that these people were coming, that they were going to try to do something with this, it was just -- I felt like that it was something I needed to do. And I needed to say something and -- and -- and say something to the bully in our front yard, basically, is what I felt like doing. And Facebook kind of gave me the opportunity to do that.

COOPER: Ben, I -- I heard you say that this -- that success for you would be, if Sunday morning, the headlines read, "Elizabeth Edwards Quietly Laid to Rest."

BEN REQUENA, ORGANIZING WESTBORO COUNTERPROTEST: Absolutely. Absolutely.

This -- this isn't about me. I think Susan would agree. This isn't about us. It's not about the thousands of people from the local community and abroad that are going to come over and help protest and spread the love. And -- and it's certainly not about the Westboro group. This is about human decency and common courtesy.

COOPER: And, Susan, what do you...

BURCHAM: I agree with that.

COOPER: How do you plan to do this tomorrow? Because, I mean, obviously, you don't want this to turn...

BURCHAM: Well, I...

COOPER: ... into some sort of a yelling protest or anything.

BURCHAM: No.

We were talking about this. Our -- our -- the original post that I did was to create a human barrier between the protesters and the funeral itself. But, luckily, the Raleigh police have decided to make that -- to do that on their own.

And they're cordoning off the area for the church. So, what we're going to be doing is maybe, maybe even singing hymns and Christmas carols just to -- to -- if we get 200 to 500 people out there singing and -- and just bringing out the love, then their hate can't be heard.

So, that's kind of what we have been talking about.

(LAUGHTER)

REQUENA: Absolutely.

COOPER: Ben, did you worry -- I mean, we worried about, frankly, even talking about this tonight, because we don't want to give them, frankly, more publicity. Did you worry about kind of turning this into something bigger? I mean, you probably have the same concerns.

REQUENA: Yes, absolutely.

I think, if we weren't there, Westboro would be the story. It would be hard for any local media to not cover their presence. So, what I think we're hoping to do is be the better story, not the louder story or the flashier story, but the better story.

COOPER: And, obviously, Susan, you know, the Supreme Court is -- is considering this now.

What do you say to people who say, look, this is a matter of free speech, and, you know, like it or not, they have the right to protest?

BURCHAM: I can't disagree with that, but I think this is the free speech equivalent of kicking a puppy. You can do it, but why? And it's just ridiculous to try to do it.

REQUENA: Yes. I actually think freedom of speech takes care of freedom of speech in this case.

BURCHAM: Yes.

COOPER: How do you mean?

REQUENA: Our freedom to go there and counterprotest takes care of their freedom to protest in the first place.

Like I said, if -- if they're there and we aren't, they're the story. So, we want to be the bigger story, the better story.

COOPER: Well, Susan and Ben, I appreciate you coming on and being with us tonight. Thank you very much.

REQUENA: Thank you.

COOPER: I want to bring in our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, to talk about Snyder v. Phelps, which is the First Amendment case now before the Supreme Court.

How do you think the court is going to rule? Because, I mean, it -- it -- clearly, this is a form of free speech, I would assume.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: If I had to bet today, based on hearing are the oral argument, I would say the Phelps win 9- 0.

I think, unfortunately -- you know, one of the famous definitions of the First Amendment is freedom for the thought that we hate. And it's hard to think of anything more hateful than the way the Phelps use the First Amendment.

But the facts of the case, the Marine, Snyder, who died, the police there told them, you have to be 1,000 feet away, you have to stay behind this barrier. And that's exactly what the Phelps did. They stayed 1,000 feet away from the funeral. They -- they followed the police instructions. They held the signs.

They -- and -- and, yet, a jury still awarded the Snyder family $5 million in damages. That...

COOPER: So, does that -- so, the Supreme Court rules, and, therefore, they -- they -- that ruling will be overturned and they wouldn't get those damages?

TOOBIN: That's -- that -- if -- if the Phelps win, the damage award would be wiped out.

COOPER: There was an argument made about privacy, the -- the privacy this family has violated, the Phelps, folks from this church had put some information about them online, about their family online.

That -- that's -- doesn't really...

TOOBIN: That is a somewhat better argument.

But, you know, when you are talking about a group that is engaged in a political protest, even if it's a lunatic protest, that's at the heart of what the First Amendment is meant to protect, political protest.

And the fact that these facts were arguably private, although it was the fact that, you know, one of the people in the family had been divorced, which is not really a private fact, it's hard for me to see how the court would let that be an end-round -- end-run around the First Amendment.

COOPER: Justice Scalia brought up something, what, the fighting words doctrine. What is that?

TOOBIN: The fighting words doctrine is a really old doctrine in the Supreme Court, which is that, if you say something that is such a provocation, that it sort of triggers violence, you -- that can be censored.

But, you know, the Supreme Court has not upheld the fighting doctrine -- the fighting words doctrine in decades. A lot of people believe it doesn't even exist anymore.

And this -- there was no fight here. I mean, there was no -- no violence prompted by it.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: You know, it's funny.

Ben, your -- your previous guest, he really got to the heart of it, because he said, you know, the cure -- the way the lawyers put it is the cure for bad speech is more speech.

COOPER: Hmm.

TOOBIN: And that's what Ben and Susan are doing. And that's sort of how the First Amendment's supposed to work.

COOPER: Interesting.

Jeff Toobin, appreciate your analysis. Thanks.

Let us know what you think, the live chat up and running right now, AC360.com.

Up next: This one took us all by surprise today, reportedly the White House as well -- why President Obama handed the podium in the White House Briefing Room to former President Clinton and then left the room. And later tonight: The defendant sang as the verdict was read -- sang as the verdict was read, the man who took 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart from her bed at knifepoint. We will tell you what the jury decided and what Elizabeth Smart hers had to say afterwards.

You will from her, and we will speak to her dad -- "Crime & Punishment" tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, what you're -- what you're about to see isn't just "Raw Politics." Best we can tell, it is unprecedented. Nothing quite like it has ever happened at the White House, as far as we know.

President Obama, as you probably know, is having a tough time selling Democrats on his tax deal with Republicans. So, today, after an afternoon meeting with former President Bill Clinton, the two walked into the White House Briefing Room.

After saying he would have to leave shortly to meet the first lady, the president told the former president, in so many words: Sell it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In my opinion, this is a good bill and I hope that my fellow Democrats will support it.

I thank the Republican leaders for agreeing to include things that were important to the president.

There's never a perfect bipartisan bill in the eyes of a partisan, and we all see this differently, but I really believe this will be a significant net plus for the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, that was former President Clinton making his case for the tax deal, looking like he didn't exactly need any help.

Then, a few moments later, this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here's what I will say. I have been keeping the first lady waiting for about half-an- hour, so, I'm going to take off. But...

CLINTON: And I -- I don't want to make her mad. Please go.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: You're in good hands.

(LAUGHTER) OBAMA: And -- and Gibbs will call last question.

CLINTON: Yes, help me.

Thank you.

Yes, go ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So, then it got really fascinating, the former president talking solo for about another 17 minutes or so, longer than the two had actually spent together at the podium.

Now, it was either a remarkable show of self-confidence for President Obama, or a reminder of how much political trouble he's in, or both.

In any case, for a lot of Democrats, certainly, it brought back strong memories of just how comfortable Bill Clinton was in the Briefing Room.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JULY 2, 1993)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On the G7, as you're about to head off -- by the way, that's a very nice tie.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: I wish the American public could see that tie.

CLINTON: This is designed by a 12-year-old. It's a Save the Children tie.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: If it weren't a gift, I would give it to you.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: I don't want it.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JULY 15, 1993)

BRIT HUME, ABC REPORTER: In the House...

CLINTON: You know what I'm really upset about? You got a honeymoon, and I didn't.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, DECEMBER 15, 1993)

CLINTON: Thank you very much.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Quick question on health care.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: All right, one more.

(CROSSTALK)

CLINTON: It's Christmas, guys.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, Bill Clinton back then.

Joining me now, former Hillary Clinton campaign adviser Maria Cardona, Erick Erickson, editor in chief of RedState.com, and senior political analyst David Gergen.

David, you worked in the White House for four administrations. You worked for the Clinton administration. Can you ever remember a time when a sitting president, a former president, would show up in the Briefing Room, and then one leave, and the other kind of takes over?

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, Anderson.

I was there some 17 years ago, when President Clinton wanted to get NAFTA passed, and he had a rebellion in the Democratic Party. And he called in all the former presidents, four of them, and asked each one of them to speak briefly. But I can assure you he never let them have the podium alone.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Was this a wise move, in your opinion, for President Obama?

GERGEN: Oh, I think it -- you know, there's going to be a lot of whoop-de-do about it, but I actually think it didn't do any harm.

I do think -- to go back to your earlier question, I think President Obama has a -- has a self-confidence and inner security, that this wouldn't faze him at all. And I think he thinks that, you know, well, what's the big deal?

But I -- you can tell, Bill Clinton relished this. I mean, he -- I can only think of two presidents, Bill Clinton and Teddy Roosevelt, would have enjoyed this as much as he did.

And I think he actually made -- what I think is a problem for Obama is that Bill Clinton makes a better argument for the compromise than -- than President Obama did the other day.

COOPER: Hmm.

Marie, what about that? I mean, it was interesting. Apparently, the backstory, apparently, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs heard them out in the hallway and was like, what are you guys up to? And -- and -- and, basically, they kind of wanted to go into the Briefing Room. And he said, please give us five minutes, and he got the media around.

Was it a wise thing?

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I actually think it was a brilliant move.

I mean, look, you have somebody who is absolutely comfortable behind the podium, and you have a president, President Obama, who, as David said, I think has -- has an inner security that, at the end of the day, he's the president, no matter what.

And you're -- you're going to have somebody in Bill Clinton who is going to explain this in very simple language, not only that, but you also have in him an incredibly important validator, somebody who presided over the greatest economic expansion in our generation, and who did it by raising taxes on the rich. He's now telling America, this is the tax deal that we need.

I think it was a brilliant moment and an important one for President Obama and for President Clinton.

COOPER: Erick, you actually think it was a bad idea, right?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I do.

And, first, Anderson, let say that David's looking very sharp in his tux tonight.

COOPER: I -- well, believe me, that was going to be my last question, about what's David going to be doing tonight.

ERICKSON: Yes, absolutely.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: But...

(CROSSTALK)

ERICKSON: But -- and, you know, I don't mean to thread-jack, but, first, can I say my hat's off to those people who are going to protest Fred Phelps? As a Christian, that just disgusts me, that he would do that.

But on...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Well, I thought, Susan and Ben, I thought their attitude about it was really nice.

ERICKSON: God bless them, yes.

COOPER: And it's not about making a big hoopla. It's just about kind of facing off against...

(CROSSTALK)

ERICKSON: Yes, amen to that.

You know, on this situation, I'm a big "24" fan, and I remember, in season four, when the acting president, Logan, had to hand over the -- the reins of power to former president...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: So, you saw shades of Kiefer Sutherland today?

(LAUGHTER)

ERICKSON: Yes. Absolutely, yes. He was -- because he was inept when it came to handling terrorism.

In this case, you know, President Clinton does make a much more persuasive case on the economy. And all this is going to do is give fodder to late-night hosts and to conservatives and even to progressives over Barack Obama, supposedly being the most articulate president, having handed this over to Bill Clinton.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But you don't -- but, Erick, you don't think it -- it -- it helps -- for those, you know, liberal Democrats who are upset at President Obama, you don't think it kind of heals some of those wounds?

ERICKSON: No, I don't think so. It makes them, if nothing else, I would think, feel like there's blood in the water, that he's having to abdicate to Bill Clinton, because he can't do it himself. That would just embolden me, if George Bush were to do something like this.

COOPER: David, do you think this can be interpreted as an abdication?

GERGEN: No, I don't.

I think every president I have ever known looks for validation from outside, you know, elders in the country. You ask a Warren Buffett to come in and bless your economic plan, and you ask a Bill Clinton, if you're a Democrat, to come in and -- and endorse your -- your -- your tax cut plan. I think he helps overall, but I do think it -- I think it makes people nostalgic for Clinton, though.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: So what happens to the deal now, David?

GERGEN: Oh, I -- there's going to have to be a negotiation between the House and the Senate Democrats to get this straightened out, because they have got a bit of a mess on their hands in the House.

I don't see how the House members, the Democrats, can just sort of roll over because the Senate passes it. They -- they -- they're standing on a principle. And I imagine the issue that's going to really get changed and challenged, Anderson, is the estate tax.

And -- and, frankly, I think that the -- they did -- they were too generous on the estate tax. I do think, instead of $5 million, that will be $3.5 million. That's what the consensus was going in. And I think it was a -- it was a much better approach.

So, my hope is they will get that -- they get that done. I would like to see them do something on deficits, but that's probably a bridge too far.

COOPER: What kind of a timetable, Maria, do you think we're looking at?

CARDONA: I think that we're going to see Democrats coming together on this tax deal pretty quickly.

They understand that there is a very short timeline. And, at the end of the day, what Democrats don't want -- and President Obama said this, President Clinton really underscored this today -- is for taxes to go up on the middle-class and working-class families. The other...

COOPER: So you don't think the rift is that deep right now among Democrats?

CARDONA: No, I really don't.

I think there is a lot of show, in terms of the liberals, and I think that's OK. And I actually think, at the end of the day, this is going to remind people, in the long run, what the two parties actually stand for, that Republicans were willing to hold hostage the middle- class tax cuts and the working-class tax cuts for -- for workers, and that Democrats were fighting for the middle class and for the working- class, and that, were it not for Republicans, we would have gotten that.

But, also, we have to remember, look at all these other tax credits that we got: extension of unemployment benefits. That is not something, Anderson, that we would have seen reality if we had waited until January to get. COOPER: Erick, I have reading some blogs in which people are critical of Republicans for, you know, on the one hand, during the campaign saying the president is a Maoist or a socialist, but now it looks like there's deal-making going on.

ERICKSON: Yes, very much so. And there are a lot of Republicans who are upset.

And, ironically, had the Democrats not blown up in the House yesterday, a lot of the Republican tension over this deal would have never surfaced. And, today, you're seeing the Heritage Foundation, Charles Krauthammer, Rush Limbaugh, myself, and others out there saying, kill the deal. We can get something better in January.

Largely, these tensions would have been suppressed, had the Democrats not blown up yesterday.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: So, you think the deal should be killed because -- because you -- from a Republican standpoint, what, you -- you can get a better deal, no -- no extension on unemployment?

ERICKSON: I -- I think -- I think Republicans can get a better deal in January.

But, more so, I think that, with all this talk last week about taking the -- the Bowles-Simpson deficit plan seriously, for the Democrats and Republicans together to come in today in the Senate and now load it up with tax extensions that are in effect earmarks, bribes to various industries to keep them going, as opposed to actually dealing with the issues in and of themselves, I think it's offensive.

COOPER: David, I saw you nodding your head.

GERGEN: Yes. Well, I -- I think Erick's absolutely right on that last point.

This thing is starting to get Christmas-treed. It -- it -- there has been -- it -- the bill should have been accompanied by a commitment on -- a hard commitment on spending cuts down the road. And that's been a loss.

But now to load it up, I think, is a -- a real mistake. And -- but I have to tell you, Erick, I think it's really important for a lot of small businesses to get some certainty on taxes, not wait until some time in the middle of next year to get a bill passed.

ERICKSON: Yes, the uncertainty is killing them.

GERGEN: People have got to know going in.

ERICKSON: And I would agree with you, David. I completely agree with that, on the uncertainty issue.

CARDONA: And... COOPER: Very quickly, David, why are you so dapper tonight?

(LAUGHTER)

GERGEN: It's sort of a reverse John King, right?

COOPER: Yes.

CARDONA: Anderson, can I add one thing here?

GERGEN: I'm -- I'm here -- I'm here for a benefit for a hospital, but -- in Rochester.

COOPER: All right. Cool.

Yes, Maria, quickly, go ahead.

CARDONA: I think the other thing we have to keep in mind is that all of these tax issues, the initiatives that Democrats got in this deal that exist in this deal that wouldn't have existed in January are direct and immediate injections of capital into the economy, which is exactly what we need right now.

And that was underscored by President Clinton. It has been underscored by President Obama and by all of the Democrats who are looking to get this done for workers and for middle-class family.

COOPER: Well, let me -- let me bring in Erick on that.

I mean, is this -- if this is a -- a stimulus, in a sense, to the economy, why not do it right now? I mean, doesn't that outweigh the political value, in your opinion, of doing it later?

(CROSSTALK)

ERICKSON: Well, it's amazing that -- what the Democrats are trying to take credit for in the plan. And, particularly, the -- the payroll tax holiday was first put forward by the conservative American Enterprise Institute. The -- the business exemptions were put forward by the Heritage Foundation. Then you had the income tax as well.

CARDONA: Then you should support it.

(CROSSTALK)

ERICKSON: But to say, though, that -- to say that the unemployment benefits, though, will somehow create jobs, no, they won't. They're there because we're not creating jobs.

And I think that's a fatuous argument from the Democrats, to say that, somehow, unemployment benefits extensions will create jobs, when, in fact, ironically, most people on unemployment benefits find their job within the last three weeks before their benefits run out.

COOPER: We're going to leave it there.

Erick Erickson, Maria Cardona, David Gergen, appreciate it very much.

Up next, we're going to tell you about...

CARDONA: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: ... the real-live dissident who should have been there in person to collect this year's Nobel Peace Prize and why he couldn't be.

Later: what Elizabeth Smart had to live through at the hands of her fanatic captor -- captor -- justice today for her and her father. She spoke out. And we will speak to her dad at length.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Today, again, you said, "It's real."

I mean, does it -- does it feel real?

ED SMART, FATHER OF ELIZABETH SMART: It is real.

(LAUGHTER)

SMART: It does. It feels very real.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Coming up, turmoil in Haiti. Post election riots, the cholera outbreak. I'll be talking to Sean Penn, who's in Haiti on the ground, about all the latest developments. But first Susan Hendricks joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Susan.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a judge in Alaska's superior court has rejected Senate candidate Joe Miller's challenge of write-in ballots, finding no proof of election fraud. Five weeks after election day, Joe Miller trails Senator Lisa Murkowski by more than 10,000 votes.

Nick Brooks, the boyfriend of swimsuit designer Sylvie Cachay, has been arrested in New York and charged with attempted murder and strangulation. Officials would not say why the charge is attempted murder.

Cachay was found dead in a hotel room bathtub with bruises and bite marks on her body. Nick Brooks is the son of Joseph Brooks, the composer who produced the son, "You Light Up My Life" and who was indicted on multiple counts of sexual assault earlier this year.

A top drug lord, Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, has been killed in Mexico during a two-day gun battle with armed forces. A national security spokesman said five federal police officers and three civilians died during that operation.

An imprisoned Chinese dissident was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize today, an empty chair marking his absence from the ceremony in Norway. Liu Xiaobo is a professor, critic and writer who is serving an 11-year sentence for writing an appeal for democratic reform, what the Chinese government calls inciting subversion of state power.

And this. Holy gallery opening, Batman! Adam West, the original Batman, is now the paint crusader. The first exhibit of his paintings and drawings opened tonight in Beverly Hills. His artwork shows his version of Batman and his crime-fighting world. By the way, Anderson, he's 82 and says he's starting a new phase of his life.

COOPER: Wish him well.

All right. Time now -- time now for "The Shot." We found this video on YouTube, showing a Christmas pageant rehearsal at a church in West Palm Beach, Florida. The production uses live animals, which is pretty exciting though ultimately difficult, as you're about to see, including a camel named Lula Belle (ph).

There she is walking down the aisle, a shepherd leading her. There's a wise man on her back. He's out of frame. Everyone in the audience obviously very excited. It's always exciting to see live animals.

And then Lula Belle (ph) gets startled and loses her balance. Yikes. Thankfully we're told -- yikes. We're told no one was hurt. Lula Belle (ph) was not hurt, and the wise man she was carrying reportedly is fine. So are the people in the pews.

Lula Belle apparently has been pulled from production, which seems kind of sad to us, though hopefully, she'll get at least tickets to the program.

Next in "Crime & Punishment," nearly nine years since Elizabeth Smart's kidnapping, a verdict against the homeless street preacher accused of taking her from her bed at knifepoint and holding her for nine months. You're going to hear Elizabeth in her own words, talking about finding justice, and the strength to move on. And I'll talk to with Elizabeth's father, Ed Smart.

And later, tumult in Haiti. Cholera outbreak, rioting after a bitterly disputed election. We're going to get an update from Sean Penn, who's in Haiti right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tonight in "Crime & Punishment," almost nine years after the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart -- can you believe it's been almost nine years? -- a federal jury today found that Brian David Mitchell was guilty of the crime. The jury found Mitchell, who was a homeless street preacher, guilty of kidnapping Smart, taking her across state lines for sexual purposes. He now faces a mandatory -- or a maximum of life in prison when he's sentenced in May.

As the verdict was read, Elizabeth Smart and her family smiled, watching from the front row. We're going to hear from Elizabeth's father, Ed, in just a moment about what went through his mind when he heard the verdict. When Brian David Mitchell heard the verdict, he sang, "He died, the Great Redeemer died."

It was just the latest in a series of bizarre turns in a case that started way back in 2002 with the disappearance of Elizabeth, who was then just 14 years old, taken from her bed at knife point. It was remarkable, almost unbelievable when the word came in that she was found nine months later alive.

Elizabeth is now 23 years old. She was the prosecutor's star witness, telling a sad tale of what happened to her during those nine months in captivity.

Smart said she was raped almost daily, forced to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, wear robes and a veil in public and wasn't allowed to speak to other people, for fear that Mitchell would kill her family. On the stand, Smart said, and I quote, "I felt that because of what he had done to me I was marked. I wasn't the same. My personal value had dropped. I was nothing. Another person could never love me. I felt like I had a burden the size of a mountain to carry around with me the rest of my life."

Also during testimony, Elizabeth said that Mitchell told her their marriage was preordained and that she would be by his side as they battled the antichrist.

The defense mounted basically an insanity defense, which jurors rejected, something Mitchell's stepdaughter said doesn't make sense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REBECCA WOODRIDGE, STEPDAUGHTER OF BRIAN DAVID MITCHELL: I -- I think he should have been found not guilty by reason of insanity and sent somewhere to be further evaluated, looked at, trying to figure out why he's doing the things he's doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, of course, the question on everyone's mind now is how is Elizabeth doing? Again, in a moment, we're going to hear from her dad, but first, here's what Elizabeth said today on the courthouse steps after the verdict.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SMART: It's a wonderful day and I am so thrilled to be here. I am so thrilled with the verdict.

But not only that, I am so thrilled to stand before the people of America today and give hope to other victims who have not spoken out about their crime -- about what's happened to them. I hope that not only is this an example that justice can be served in America, but that it is possible to move on after something terrible has happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Elizabeth's father, Ed Smart, joins me now. Ed, you know, you've heard your daughter out on the courthouse steps saying not only is this a sign that justice, you know, can be done but that people can actually move forward. People can survive these things and move forward with their lives. When you saw her out on those steps, you know, talking from her heart, you must have been just so proud.

ED SMART, FATHER OF ELIZABETH SMART: I am very proud of her. You know, I think for any victim to come forward and have to tell what happened to them is so incredibly hard. As Elizabeth's father, I think that was the hardest thing that this whole -- about this whole trial.

You know, when I heard Elizabeth say to me, "Dad, I -- I -- I never thought I was ever going to have to say what I'm going to have to say." And I was really sick about it.

COOPER: You and your family, we've talked about this over the years. You guys, once she came back, were very careful to let her tell her story to you in her own time and in her own way and how ever she wanted to. But you've said that on the stand she talked about things which you hadn't even heard before.

ED SMART: Absolutely. I had never heard how absolutely horrible it was. You know, what she felt when she was up there in that camp, what happened to her, it was just so outrageous. I -- you know, I had no idea how bad it was. And to think that a mother and a father would do this to somebody else's child was just an outrage.

COOPER: I want to take you back, Ed, for just a moment, back to 2003 when Elizabeth was found and something you said to the public. I just want to play this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED SMART: Elizabeth is happy. She's well. And we're so happy to have her back in our arms. I hate even leaving her. I'm just always sitting there hugging her the whole time. Is this real? She's home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Today, again, you said it's real. I mean, does it -- does it feel real?

ED SMART: It is real! It does. It feels very real. It's feels like it's real because...

COOPER: Does it feel like it's over?

ED SMART: You know, this day and this moment has come, and -- and we're grateful that it's there. It's over. I think that one of the most important things that we feel in seeing this come to an end is reiterating how many are out there in Elizabeth's same kind of situation. COOPER: You were talking about what happened in the courtroom. Brian David -- Brian David Mitchell's lawyer was pushing this insanity defense, something you and your family never believed. And one juror noted that, you know, in court Mitchell's -- you know, had bizarre behavior like singing hymns. But that, according to the jury, he could seem to flip it on and off like a switch.

ED SMART: Absolutely.

COOPER: And that they didn't really buy the insanity defense based on that. You have no doubt the guy is not insane?

ED SMART: Absolutely. There's no question. I believe that he does have a problem, but he is not insane.

When a person -- I mean, he told Elizabeth, "You know, if they catch me, I'm going to go here." Last night, he even said to his defense, you know, "I think that they're going to come in guilty."

He knew what was right and what was wrong from the point of our laws in the United States. Whether he felt he was above the laws is -- is another issue. But he realized what he was doing.

COOPER: What happens now? Will you celebrate?

ED SMART: Absolutely. We are going to have a real -- a great time together as a family.

COOPER: Our best to Elizabeth and to your family, Ed. Thank you so much.

ED SMART: Thank you.

COOPER: Still ahead tonight, Sean Penn describing the scene tonight in Haiti, where an election plagued by fraud threatens to send the country spinning into greater chaos. So what needs to happen to prevent it? We'll talk to Sean Penn on the ground in Port-au-Prince.

Also ahead, the video of the bong hit seen around the world. It was -- well, we're not putting Miley Cyrus on the RidicuList. We're putting this video on the RidicuList. We'll explain, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, it's been a tough week in Haiti, no doubt about it. Anger over last month's disputed presidential election erupted into demonstrations and some violence. French media reporting at least five people have been killed. The situation has been very fluid, and the U.S. government has reissued a travel warning advising Americans to reconsider nonessential travel to Haiti.

Violence began three days ago after Haitians learned a popular candidate named Michel Martelly had been edged out of January's runoff race between two other candidates. Many of Martelly's supporters are alleging fraud and have taken to the streets. Supporters of other candidates have also been demonstrating in the streets. In the meantime, there have been reports that the violence was disrupting aid to cholera victims and delivery of supplies to camp where more than a million Haitians still live. There's talk now of a check of the vote tally, but it's unclear if that will happen and how it would be conducted fairly.

Sean Penn is in Haiti tonight. We talked earlier by phone.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Sean, I want to talk to you about what's behind the violence we've seen in a second, but first of all, just what's the situation like today? What's it like now for folks in the camps, for people all throughout Port-au-Prince? How bad are things right now?

SEAN PENN, ACTOR/ACTIVIST (via phone): The election period that's come and the announcements come out, it created a lot of unrest. I don't want to say a lot of violence, because while there were pockets of extreme violence, primarily what we're -- what we're talking about were a lot of barricaded streets, a lot of rocks thrown. But primarily, it was an expression of a country that's -- that's pretty fed up, I think.

COOPER: What's the most important thing you want people to know about what is happening right now in Haiti? I mean, is it -- is it the scattered pockets of violence on the streets? The demonstrations? The presidential elections? Or is it the cholera and the condition of folks in the camps and the need to, you know, get people out of those camps and back into community?

PENN: Yes, we've got a population of somewhere north of a million people who are still living in tarp structures. So it's highly vulnerable. It's not -- it's not the kind of place where you're going to unreluctantly protest violence in revolution of any kind. It's something that -- this is a very unique situation. No one can win with a violent situation.

And what will be left behind for any presidential winner is a fallen Haiti. And to fall from such a place, from such a low place, is perhaps a death of Haiti.

What really, really has to happen is that the candidates have to exert their strength and passionately and forcefully communicate to their supporters, while very, very quickly moving towards transparency.

And so again, where -- what we've got (ph), you need shelter, you need systems, clean water systems, cholera is -- you know, when we talk about 2,000 dead, you have to imagine those bodies in one big pile. And when you look at that pile, say to yourself, this is one of the easiest things there is to treat. It is -- this is 2,000 people who are dead, who would have been alive today with just simple oral rehydration salts in 95 percent of these cases.

And to create a political situation where instead you now -- we now have over 100,000 people infected with this disease, you know, it's the antithesis of what the political system's intention is in terms of creating a civil society, creating hopes and dreams, shelter and the access to -- to the basic human rights.

COOPER: Sean Penn, as always, good to talk to you from Port-au- Prince. Sean, thank you.

PENN: Thank you, Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Sean was also stressing to me that he's not taking sides in this presidential race. He's running one of the largest camps in Port-au-Prince. His nonprofit group, the JP Haitian Relief Organization. If you want to helped them, you can check them out. You go to their Web site, BeatTheRain.org.

A lot more we're following tonight. Susan Hendricks joins us again with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Susan.

HENDRICKS: Anderson, on Capitol Hill today, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent, talked for more than eight hours in a solo tirade against President Obama's tax cut deal. A vote to begin debate on the package is scheduled for Monday.

A stunning admission by the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA says registration records for as many as one-third of all private aircraft are out of date and inaccurate and has begun the process of registering aircraft in the U.S. Experts say inaccurate records can conceal illegal or terrorist activity.

And take a look at this. A truck, minivan and city bus all collide in Queens New York. Amazingly, according to reports, no serious injuries here. Six people were taken to local hospitals as a precaution.

Netflix is joining the S&P 500. Shares of the online streaming video and DVD rental company rose 2 percent on the news. Also joining the index, Cablevision, tech company 5X Networks -- 5S, and energy company Newfield Exploration.

The four newcomers will replace "The New York Times," Office Depot, Eastman Kodak and King Pharmaceuticals.

A new federal study is pretty shocking. It found 30 million Americans admit they drive drunk. And another 10 million say they drove under the influence of illicit drugs.

And most fans remember the late Bea Arthur as the wisecracker from the "The Golden Girls." Well, take a look. It turns out during World War II, she was a Marine. That's according to the Smoking Gun Web site, which found official documents showing she was one of the first members of the women's reserve -- Anderson.

COOPER: I actually grew up knowing Bea Arthur. She was a friend of my mom.

HENDRICKS: You did?

COOPER: Yes. She was such a great lady. So funny, and just smart, and she was a really remarkable talent.

HENDRICKS: She seemed that way.

COOPER: Yes, really was. She is missed.

Susan, thanks. Have a great weekend.

Time now for tonight's RidicuList. It's our nightly effort to, well, just kind of point out silly stuff, and there's a lot of silly stuff out there these days.

Tonight is not a person we're adding to the list but a video of a person. This video of Miley Cyrus, which has left her flock of fans and their parents shocked yet again. Take a deep breath, because here she is, taking a Montana-sized hit from a bong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold it. Hold it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You led it (ph).

MILEY CYRUS, SINGER/ACTRESS: OK. I'm about to lose it now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just lay down.

CYRUS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Party in the USA indeed. Could you make any of that out?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CYRUS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) a brick when you see this. Look out, girl.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Come again?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CYRUS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: It makes perfect sense to me now.

TMZ says the video was shot at a party at Miley's house five days after her 18th birthday. A source connected with Miley -- we're not sure what that means -- told TMZ that the bong is filled with salvia, an herb that supposedly has psychedelic properties and is legal in California. Now, I have no idea what was actually in that bong. It might have been salvia. I don't know.

But did you notice what's happening in the background? The fact that someone else in the room is seriously chowing down in a Costco size box of Frosted Flakes late at night? I'm just saying.

Now, Miley's dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, is saying he's kind of achy breaky over this whole thing. He tweeted on his Twitter page, "Sorry, guys, I had no idea. I'm so sad. There is much beyond my control right now."

Now of course, this isn't the first time Miley has made fans and their parents, well, not smiley. There was this, the nearly nude photo shoot with "Vanity Fair," which she blamed on the great photographer, Annie Leibovitz. And then there was her grinding on that pole on an ice-cream cart at the 2009 Teen Choice Awards.

Miley has said in the past that it's not her job to tell kids how to act, because she's still figuring it out for herself.

Our advice? You're probably not going to figure it out with your sinuses packed with bong resin. I'm just saying.

But you know -- but you know what? I don't know. But you know what? I like that line. I didn't write it. I wish I did. She's been working since she was little, and she's earned more money, created more employment opportunities for others and achieved more for herself than most people do in their lifetime. She's 18 years old, for goodness sakes, and is bound to do stupid stuff. Who hasn't?

What I find ridiculous and why this is on the list tonight, and frankly sad, is that some alleged friend of hers would actually risk taking that video, and then that person or someone else would be so lame as to sell it to a Web site. Turning a teenager's very teenage misadventure into a big hit? That makes it onto our RidicuList.

A lot more at the top of the hour. The serious stuff. I'll tell you about the church that's planning to preach a message of hate at Elizabeth Edwards's funeral tomorrow, and we'll talk to some good people who are going to go there to show them what love is all about.

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